2018 Preview: West division

Just like yesterday’s East division preview, today we’ll cover the West: where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and a haiku for each team.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Look out for

Holden Cattoni. He didn’t really stand out last season with 26 points in 15 games, but had an excellent summer in the MSL. With Jeff Shattler now in Saskatchewan, Cattoni will likely get more floor time and can use his new-found confidence to help the Roughnecks.

Prediction

Jeff Shattler and Scott Carnegie are gone, Mike Carnegie is injured, Bob Snider is on the practice roster, and Wes Berg has not yet signed a contract. In their place are third-overall draft pick Zach Currier, Vaughan Harris (who had a cup of coffee with the Necks last year), and two more rookies, Anthony Kalinich and Tyler Pace. A good crop of rookies to be sure, but those are some awfully big shoes to fill.

Fourth in the west.

Haiku

Shattler on the Rush
Will be a shock to Necks fans
Will they sign Wes Berg?


MammothColorado Mammoth

Look out for

Jacob Ruest. Ruest scored 18 goals and picked up 18 assists in 18 games last year. With Crawford gone, there will be more space on the Mammoth’s right side so along with Keogh and Noble, Ruest will be getting a lot more floor time.

Prediction

Coates and Holding are gone for the year, Bryce Sweeting is also injured, though I don’t know how long he’s out, and Ilija Gajic was not re-signed. Those are some pretty big holes to fill on defense. But the offense didn’t want the defensive guys to have all the fun. Also missing are Zack Greer and Brent Adams. The addition of Ryan Benesch basically fills the hole left by Callum Crawford, though on the opposite side of the floor. If even half of those missing guys are back by mid-season, the Mammoth could do OK but if they’re all gone long-term, Dan Carey may be a busy guy in the early part of the season. He did sign Scott Carnegie to the Mammoth practice roster, so I’d expect to see him on the active roster before long.

Third in the west

Haiku

Injuries on D
Decimating the Mammoth
But Benny’s in town


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Look out for

Ryan Keenan. Keenan had a pretty good rookie season last year, but wasn’t the impact player many thought he would be; 42 points in 16 games isn’t what one might expect from the first overall draft pick. This is a bit reminiscent of Lyle Thompson the year before, but Thompson’s sophomore season was spectacular. Not saying Keenan will win the MVP or bump Mark Matthews from his top spot on the Rush offense, but seeing Keenan hitting the 70-80 point plateau this year wouldn’t surprise me.

Prediction

Personally, I don’t think Evan Kirk is a huge upgrade over Aaron Bold, other than being younger. I don’t think he’s any worse than Bold, and I don’t think this was a terrible deal for the Rush, just not a significant improvement. But Derek Keenan is a big Kirk fan, and I admit that Keenan is probably a better judge of lacrosse talent than I am. Adam Jones, who never really seemed to fit in as part of the Rush offense, is out and Jeff Shatter is in. I’d say at worst that’s a wash and more likely, that’s a net gain for the Rush. So they probably got better at goaltender and offense, and their defense is still the best in the league despite losing John Lafontaine. The Rush are still the team to beat in the West.

First in the west

Haiku

Boldy out, Kirk in
Good goaltender and offense
Still the best defense


StealthVancouver Stealth

Look out for

Tony Malcom. After 38 points in his rookie year, Malcom was on pace for 62 last year but injuries caused him to miss half the season. The New West kid will now be playing home games at home and assuming he’s back to full health, playing with guys like Small, Duch, and Schuss can’t help but bump both his confidence and his numbers.

Prediction

A fair bit of turnover in Vancouver. They lost Lintz, Hodgson, Harnett, Garrison, Wagner, and Toll on the back end and Conway and Durston up front, and Tyler Richards was released. They did gain Tony (the former Anthony) Malcom, they seem excited about draft pick Ryan Fournier, and then Andrew Suitor just fell into their lap a few days ago. The Stealth made big strides last season, and I can see them capitalizing on that this year.

Second in the west.

Haiku

Hodgy retired
Matt Beers becomes the captain
Suitor joins in too

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Presenting your 2018 Boston Blazers

As I do most years, I’ve made up a 20-man roster full of non-retired players who are not on any NLL active or practice rosters (or IR or holdout or other lists) but if there was one more team in the league, they might be. Next year, this list will be quite different, seeing as we’ll have two extra teams.

Boston Blazers

Forwards

Keegan Bal
Garrett Billings
Cory Conway
Zach Herreweyers
Mikey MacDonald
Quinn Powless (on Rochester’s practice roster)
Daryl Veltman

Defense / Transition

Dan Ball
Scott Carnegie
Jordan Dance
Jarrett Davis
Ilija Gajic
Alex Kedoh Hill
Ryan Hotaling (on IR with New England)
Mitch McMichael
Bill O’Brien
Andrew Watt
Sean Young

Goaltenders

Zach Higgins
Tyler Richards

Pratice Roster

Zak Boychuk
Blaze Riorden
Derek Searle

2018 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.

Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2017. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”.

Last updated: December 7, 2017

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Reid Acton, Alex Buque, Josh Byrne, Callum Crawford, Jordan Durston, Chase Fraser, Ethan Schott, Ryan Wagner
Out: Ryan Benesch, Anthony Cosmo, Tim Edwards, Alex Kedoh Hill, Anthony Malcom, Blaze Riorden, Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, Adam Will
IR:
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Gowah Abrams, Vaughan Harris, Liam Patten, Zac Reid

Tons of new faces for the Bandits including three rookies. Callum Crawford strengthens the Bandits’ right side while his former Swarm teammate Ryan Benesch is replaced on the left side by Jordan Durston. Alex Buque replaces newly retired Anthony Cosmo and will probably get the nod as the everyday starter.

According to Steve Bermel just moments ago (I was literally seconds away from clicking the “publish” button on this article when I saw his tweet), Alex Kedoh Hill is an RFA because the Bandits offered him a contract but he didn’t sign it. “If any team makes him an offer, the Bandits have 72 hours to match it.”


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Frank Brown, Warren Hill, Jesse King, Kevin Orleman, Zed Williams
Out: Mitch Belisle, Liam Byrnes, Jordan Hall, Brodie MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Chad Tutton, Joel White
IR:
PUP: Chad Tutton
Holdout: Jordan Hall, Mason Jones, Ethan O’Connor, Joel White
Practice Roster: Liam Byrnes, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Lauchlin Elder, Brayden Hill

More changes to the Swarm roster than they might have liked. Hall and White are out for non-lacrosse-job-related reasons, Belisle retired, MacDonald was traded, and Tutton is injured. Jordan Hall was acquired last year when the Swarm found out that Jesse King would miss the season, but this year the Swarm were going to have a “problem” fitting King into the lineup. Problem solved – King ironically replaces Hall who’s going to miss the season. The Swarm have made the odd move of keeping three goaltenders on the roster.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Aaron Bold, Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Mark Cockerton, JP Kealey, John Lafontaine, Colton Watkinson
Out: Brett Bucktooth, Chad Culp, Ryan Hotaling, Evan Kirk, Brooker Muir, Bill O’Brien, Zac Reid
IR: Ryan Hotaling
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Chaykowsky, Anthony Joaquim, Nick Mariano, Rance Vigneux

The biggest move is obviously at goaltender, where Aaron Bold replaces Evan Kirk. David Brock becomes the latest ex-Bandit to join the Black Wolves. Bucktooth and Culp retired, and the release of Bill O’Brien was a bit of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. All four guys on the practice roster will be featured in the NLL Pronunciation Guide when they make the NLL.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, Eric Shewel, Billy Dee Smith, Jake Withers
Out: Jordan Dance, Jarrett Davis, Dylan Evans, Marty Hill, Luke Laskiewicz, Quinn Powless, Andrew Suitor, Sean Young
IR: Cody Jamieson
PUP: Dylan Evans
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Greg Longboat, Adam Perroni, Quinn Powless, Mike Triolo

A bunch of rookies and a 35-year-old vet join the Knighthawks, while most of the “Out” list are guys who only played one year with Rochester. Jarrett Davis is both in that club (played 2017 in Roch and Saskatchewan the year before that) and not in that club (played two years in Roch in 2011-2012).

Notably absent is Cody Jamieson, who will start the year on the IR. All the team has said is that Jamieson has “been making great strides to get back in the lineup”. But given what happened last year (he came back from being injured in the playoffs the year before, played five minutes, tweaked his knee again, and missed the rest of the season), I imagine they’ll play it pretty safe this time around.


RockToronto Rock

In: Phil Caputo, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen
Out: Kasey Beirnes, Turner Evans, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Challen Rogers
IR: Turner Evans, Challen Rogers
PUP: Dan Craig
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Drew Belgrave, Riley Hutchcraft, Adam Jay, Darryl Robertson
Protected: Paul Rabil

Caputo was on the team for parts of last season but as an offensive player. With the return of Hellyer and the addition of Jones, his skills aren’t really needed up front so he’s now a defender and will probably play some transition as well. Gamble will miss the year for work and Beirnes and Gilbert retired. Rob Marshall retired as well but he missed almost all of last year. As a Rock fan, I’m looking forward to the potentially devastating front line of Hellyer / Hickey / Jones / Leblanc / Schreiber / Lintner.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Martel, Bob Snider

The “In” list is all rookies, but there are some big names on that “Out” list. Wes Berg hasn’t signed a contract yet, so you’d hope he won’t be out for long. Shattler was signed by the rival Rush, Mike Carnegie is injured, Scott Carnegie was cut (!!) and Bob Snider is on the practice roster.

Update: Wes Berg was signed.


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Ryan Benesch, Scott Carnegie, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer, Rowan Kelly, Ryan Lee, Quinn MacKay, Nick Ossello
Out: Brent Adams, Alex Buque, Dan Coates, Callum Crawford, Ilija Gajic, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Rowan Kelly, Jarrod Neumann, Nick Ossello

2018 will be the first season without Ilija Gajic in the league since 2009. Benny takes over for Crawford while Fryer assumes the backup goalie role left by Buque. The losses of Holding and Coates will not help the defense but they still have Hope. (See what I did there?)


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
IR:
PUP: Nic Bilic
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Finlay, Johnny Pearson, Tor Reinholdt, Adam Shute

As usual, not many changes for the Rush but the changes they did make are pretty significant. Bold is out, Kirk is in, while Adam Jones is in Toronto, replaced by Jeff Shattler. John Lafontaine is in New England and will likely be replaced by Nic Bilic when he returns from injury.


StealthVancouver Stealth

In: Ryan Fournier, Brandon Goodwin, Brodie MacDonald, Tony Malcom, Andrew Suitor
Out: Cory Conway, Jordan Durston, Jon Harnett, Curtis Hodgson, Thomas Hoggarth, Tyler Richards, Ryan Wagner
IR: Jon Harnett, Thomas Hoggarth, Casey Jackson
PUP:
Holdout: Tyler Garrison, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Patrick O’Meara, Eric Penney, Tyson Roe, Cody Teichroeb

The Cory Conway experiment lasted about half a year. No mention was made of Garrett Billings at all this pre-season so that experiment is also over (but we knew that at the end of last season). Hodgson retired, Richards was released, and Durston and Wagner are now Bandits. Brodie MacDonald beat out Eric Penney and Zach Higgins for the backup goalie job, but that was not a surprise either. The Stealth traded for MacDonald a month ago, and you don’t trade for someone to let them compete for a job. Andrew Suitor was likely a nice surprise for the Stealth – they picked him up two days before rosters were due to be submitted to the league. A nice surprise, that is, for everyone except the defenseman who was cut to make room for Suitor.

Presenting your 2017 Boston Blazers

If you were to make a team consisting entirely of players who didn’t make NLL teams (for reasons other than retirement or injury), how good would it be? I’m only listing players who have played in the NLL before, are not on any NLL active or inactive (IR, PUP, holdout, etc.) roster, and have not officially retired. I also left off players who have decided to skip the NLL season to play in the MLL. I know Paul Rabil is on the Rock’s protected player list (which I believe is different from the holdout list). I suspect Joe Walters is similarly protected by the Knighthawks.

I’ve done this in the past (2012, 2013, and 2014) though I missed the last two years. (And now others are doing it too!) Let’s try it again. Note that I paid absolutely no attention to whether players are right- or left-handed.

Forwards

Kyle Aquin
Mark Cockerton
Josh Gillam
Jamie Lincoln
Kevin Ross
Cliff Smith
Drew Westervelt

Gotta feel bad for Kevin Ross. He couldn’t get playing time on the Rock unless another forward was injured. Then when Doyle and Sanderson both retire, he’s traded to the Knighthawks. Then with Jamieson and Vitarelli injured and Walters gone, he still doesn’t make the roster.

I suspect Smith is protected by the Stealth and Westervelt by the Mammoth but I don’t know for sure.

Josh Gillam

Defense/Transition

Dan Ball (removed since he’s on the Black Wolves practice roster)
Jamie Batson
Colin Boucher
Tyler Codron
Jackson Decker
David Earl
Stephen Hoar
Mike Manley
Bob Snider (on the Roughnecks practice roster)
John Sullivan
Corbyn Tao

I liked what I saw from Boucher last season with the Rock, so I’m a little disappointed he didn’t make the cut.

Goalies

Zak Boychuk
Zach Higgins

Practice Squad

Reid Acton
Cody Hagedorn
Mike Mallory
Jimmy Purves

 

In 2012 I had two Matts in goal, now I have a Zak and a Zach.

2014 preview: Rochester Knighthawks

Knighthawks

I guess you could say the Knighthawks had a successful 2013 season despite their mediocre 8-8 record. I’m going to go out on a limb and and call back-to-back Championships “successful”. I’m sure they’d like another 12-4 or 11-5 season but as long as they get into the playoffs, perhaps they don’t really care. After an off-season of minimal change, I see no reason why the Knighthawks won’t have another successful season in 2014, but will it be as successful as the last couple? Last season, Rochester became the fourth NLL team to win consecutive Championships, joining Buffalo, Philly (twice), and Toronto (twice). Can they become the first team to do it three straight years?

2013 season summary

Record 8-8 (2nd in East)
Home 3-5
Away 5-3
Goals for 179
Goals against 165
Top scorer Cody Jamieson (89)
Playoffs Division semi-finals: Beat Philadelphia 10-8
Division finals: Beat Minnesota 12-10
Finals: Beat Washington 11-10

Roster changes

Almost none. Only two players on the announced roster weren’t on the Knighthawks last season. Angus Goodleaf begins the season on the PUP list, so the Knighthawks brought Mike Thompson out of retirement as Matt Vinc’s backup. GM (and owner) Curt Styres also signed former Knighthawk Mac Allen from the Mammoth as a restricted free agent. Allen is formerly one of the league’s top defenders and was named to the All-Star team in 2011, but only played in a total of six games in 2012 and 2013 due to injury. If he’s healthy again, Allen will be a welcome addition to an already strong defensive core.

But one of the players missing from last year’s roster is surprising. Mike Accursi is 11th all time in scoring, and only needs 11 points to tie the now-retired Blaine Manning. But he can’t do that if he’s playing on the Boston Blazers (or sitting in the front office, as it turns out). Rory Glaves, Matt Hummell, Jimmy Purves, and Jon Sullivan were also released by the Knighthawks.

Burning question

In my opinion, neither the 2012 Knighthawks nor the 2013 Knighthawks were the best team in the league, but they have two Championships in those years so that’s arguable. Obviously “Can they do it again” is question one. But right behind that is this: How much better can Matt Vinc possibly get? Will the Goaltender of the Year award be Vinc’s to lose for each of the next five years? Or more?

Look out for

Joe Walters. It’s going to be hard to stand out when you play with the likes of Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson. But hometown boy Walters played very well in their exhibition game against the Rock, and could emerge as their #3 scorer.

Prediction

First in the East.

Haiku

Second straight season
Knighthawks are defending champs
Gonna try for three

2014 preview: Philadelphia Wings

WingsThe Philadelphia Wings have seen plenty of both ends of the success spectrum1. From 1989 to 2001 (13 years), they made it to the finals nine times, winning six of them. In the 90’s, there was no doubt that they were the powerhouse team in the league. And then it all went south. In 2002, the Wings were eliminated from the playoffs by the Washington Power. After that, they only played in one playoff game in the next nine seasons. Now we’re heading into the 2014 season, and the Wings last playoff win was still the 2001 Championship. Blaine Manning played over 200 NLL games and scored almost 900 points over 12 seasons and the Wings never won a single playoff game during his entire career. What the hell happened? A fine question, to be sure, but not one I can answer here.

1 – Did you get the Philadelphia joke there? Spectrum!

But things seem to be turning around for the Wings. They’ve made the playoffs two years in a row, though they lost to the eventual Champion Knighthawks both years. Kevin Crowley had almost identical seasons in his first two years in the league, scoring 71 and 72 points. Not John Grant numbers, but definitely respectable – and remember Shawn Evans didn’t have John Grant numbers either until last year. In fact, Evans had Kevin Crowley numbers for most of his career.

Now they have another new head coach, with Johnny Mouradian stepping down in favour of Blane Harrison. Harrison will be the sixth Wings head coach since their last playoff win.

2013 season summary

Record 7-9 (3rd in East)
Home 4-4
Away 3-5
Goals for 170
Goals against 207
Top scorer Kevin Crowley (72)
Playoffs Division semi-finals: Lost to Rochester 10-8

Roster changes

Holy crap.

I had a paragraph here that I wrote back in November, all about how the addition of Evan Kirk from Minnesota gives the Wings the same goaltender tandem as the Six Nations Chiefs of MSL, who also happen to be this year’s Mann Cup winners. I even said “they might be in their best shape goaltending-wise since a certain Mr. Eliuk was traded west“. And then the rosters were released, and Brandon Miller’s name wasn’t there. Without Miller, the Wings have Evan Kirk and rookie Don Alton. Kirk was exceptional in 2012, with a 9.81 GAA, but that ballooned to 14.47 last season, and he played less than half of the Swarm’s goaltending minutes over the last two years. Now rather than having a veteran with whom he’s familiar as a backup, he’s got Don Alton, with zero minutes of NLL experience and so Kirk will likely be expected to carry the vast majority of the goaltending burden. The Wings aren’t necessarily in deep trouble goaltending-wise, but unless they get a contract worked out with Miller pretty soon, they’re certainly not as strong as I originally thought.

Big righty Drew Westervelt was traded to the Colorado Mammoth for Ryan Hotaling and draft picks. This seemed like an odd trade for the Wings to make, since Hotaling is a transition and face-off guy. No disrespect to him, but the Wings already had Jeff Reynolds, one of the best face-off men in the league, and did they really need another transition guy? Well, it turns out not to matter since neither Hotaling nor Reynolds made the team. And again, the announcement of the rosters screwed up stuff I’d already written. I had “With Paul Rabil, Brodie Merrill, Ned Crotty, Kyle Hartzell, Jordan Hall, and Joel White, the Wings have more trannies than a pride parade.” But of those players, only Merrill, Hall, and White made the team. And Hall isn’t considered transition this year. Thanks a lot for ruining my joke, Mr. Mouradian.

One change I didn’t even notice when the rosters were released was that Kevin Buchanan wasn’t on it but Kyle Buchanan was. This means that the whole “Three Kevins” thing is done. In case you’re wondering, there were only two goals last season featuring all three Kevins, one on February 24 and the other March 1. Both goals were scored by Ross from Crowley and Buchanan, and both were on the power play.

The Wings transition and defense got an overhaul this year – gone are the aforementioned Reynolds, Hartzell, Crotty, and Rabil, as well as Pat Heim, Steve Holmes, Ethan Farrell, and Mike McLellan. In are a bunch of rookies: Garrett Thul, Pat Saunders, John Ranagan, Brian Megill, and Mike Poppleton. Apparently these guys are American field players who are new to box lacrosse, so we’ll see if these guys do any better for the Wings than the last crop of American field players who were new to box lacrosse.

With the Wings signing unrestricted free agent Ryan Ward, the loss of Westervelt is more than mitigated. Ward has averaged over 65 points per season for eight years, so his return to where his career began back in ’04 will be welcome to Wings fans. Another UFA, Tracey Kelusky, is likely near the end of his distinguished career and is coming off the three lowest-scoring (in terms of points per game) seasons of his career. But if he can rebound a little and remain healthy, he could chip in 30-40 points. So with Ward, Kelusky, (Kyle) Buchanan, Jordan Hall, and the two remaining Kevins, the Wings offense might be able to deal with the loss of Westervelt and climb from their league-worst offense in 2013.

Nine of the players on the Wings’ 20-man roster were not on the team last year. Many of the players they are replacing are Americans who are taking the season off to get ready for the 2014 World (Field) Lacrosse Championships this summer. I have to wonder if guys like Crotty and Siebald and even Rabil will be welcomed back next season after bailing on their team (even for something as “noble” as playing for their country), or are they all done in the NLL?

Burning question

  1. Can the Wings make up for the loss of half of their roster?
  2. Can Evan Kirk handle the job of full-time starting goaltender? (See similar question for Tyler Carlson)

Look out for

Kevin Crowley. Despite the acquisition of Ryan Ward, Crowley is still the de facto offensive leader on the team. I can see his numbers going up as he sets out to prove that.

Prediction

Fifth in the East.

Haiku

Lots of turnover
Many will take the year off
Who are these new guys?

2014 Preview: Buffalo Bandits

Bandits

The 2012 season (not last season, the one before) was disappointing for the Bandits. They had their head coach call them stupid and publicly question their heart and commitment during the season, and they finished last in the East. Then in the division semi-finals they allowed just 7 goals and lost. As it turned out though, that wasn’t rock bottom for the Bandits; they actually got worse in 2013. They dropped from 7-9 to 6-10, from 4-4 to 2-6 at home, scored fewer goals, and allowed more. They finished last in the East again but this time did not make the playoffs, the first time the NLL playoffs had started without the Bandits since 2002. If Bandits management were disappointed with 2012, 2013 was the last straw.

GM Steve Dietrich made two major changes and a number of smaller ones. First, Darris Kilgour was let go, and reigning NLL Coach of the Year Troy Cordingley was brought in. Secondly, Dietrich mortgaged the Bandits future (even more than it was already mortgaged) by trading two first round draft picks to Minnesota for Ryan Benesch and Andrew Watt. The Bandits now have no first round draft picks until 2017 (2013 and 2014 to Minnesota for Cosmo, 2015 and 2016 for Benesch / Watt), but for the first time ever they have an heir apparent to the ageless John Tavares.*

* – I believe that as a lacrosse blogger, I am required by law to use the term “the ageless John Tavares” at least once per season until he retires. I first called him “ageless” in 2008. But don’t read the last paragraph of that article, where I talk about Athan Iannucci’s potential to become “one of the best in league history”.

2013 season summary

Record 6-10 (4th in East)
Home 2-6
Away 4-4
Goals for 171
Goals against 211
Top scorer Shawn Williams (65)
Playoffs Missed

Roster changes

Ryan Benesch now anchors the Bandits offense along with veterans Tavares, Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson, Chad Culp, Jamie Rooney, and Mark Steenhuis. Steenhuis is listed on the Bandits roster as a forward rather than the transition guy he’s been for a few years. He  only scored 38 points last year as a transition guy, but don’t forget he scored 101 in 2009. I don’t think I’d expect that, but if he’s used purely on offense, 70 points for Steenhuis is not out of the question.

Andrew Watt is more than a throw-in as part of the Benesch deal; in fact, the acquisition of this tranny may be the reason Troy Cordingley can use Steenhuis on offense.

Luke Wiles had a terrible 2013. His point total dropped from 70 to only 21 in 12 games, and fans began publicly calling for his head. In September, they got their wish as Wiles was sent to Philadelphia , where he began his career in 2006, for two draft picks. As someone on the NLL Message Board astutely pointed out, Dietrich got more for Wiles after his lousy season (two second rounders) than he gave up for him after a 60-point season (a second and a third). To add insult to injury for the Wings, Wiles did not make the roster.

In another deal, Dietrich sent Carter Bender to Colorado for Rory Smith. Bender only played in three games so it’s hard to say the Bandits will miss him terribly (and he was then released by the Mammoth), but Rory Smith will be a welcome addition. Smith has turned from a pure fighter a few years ago to a solid defenseman who will drop the mitts if necessary, and regardless of what problems your roster might have, you can’t have too many of those.

Tracey Kelusky may still have some gas left in the tank, but after a dismal couple of years the Bandits weren’t willing to take that chance. Kelusky ended up with a decent 54 points in his first year in Buffalo, but in 2012 he fell to 28 points in 12 games – his worst points/game ratio (2.33) of his career by a full point. But after only 10 points in 7 games in 2013 (1.43 – almost another full point lower than 2012), the Bandits gave up and opted not to resign the former Roughnecks captain. Kelusky ended up signing with the Wings and unlike Wiles, he did make the cut.

Burning question

Cosmo. Dude, WTF? Sometimes he’s the old Goaltender-of-the-Year-winning Cosmo, other times he’s just… not.

Look out for

Ryan Benesch. A bit obvious to pick Benny, but arguably no player who changed teams this off-season will have as much of an impact on his new team as Benesch (with the possible exception of Ryan Ward). Not saying it’ll happen, but no Bandit has won the scoring title since John Tavares tied Gary Gait in 2004.

Prediction

Third in the East.

Haiku

JT will return
Benny adds his scoring touch
Troy turns it around?